Shelby County Health Department reports 300 percent increase in flu-like illnesses

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department is reporting a significant increase in the number of flu-like illnesses in the county.

According to the department, the number of people reporting symptoms resembling the flu in local emergency rooms increased by almost 300 percent this week.

"We strongly encourage everyone who is sick with a fever and flu-like symptoms to stay home in order to prevent spreading illness to others.Practicing good hygiene by washing hands frequently and covering coughs also helps prevent the spread of the flu," said Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter.

David Sweat, a Shelby County Health department official said people are rushing to their nearest emergency rooms complaining about fever, sore throat, body aches, chills and cough—all symptoms of the flu.

"That lets us know we have definitely started flu season," Sweat said.

Health experts like Sweat call the symptoms flu-like just to be on the safe side before testing is done but they say the most likely culprit is influenza at this time of year, and it's not too late to get the flu shot, especially because Christmas is only days away.

"You haven't missed the window, but I would say don't delay much longer," Sweat said. "People are going to be getting together and gathering, and we want people to be aware of that, and if you are having those symptoms, you need to protect those that you care about."

If you haven't already, it's not too late to get your flu shot. Health departments across the area are offering free vaccines weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

According to the health department, even though it seems the spike started early this year, we are on the same trajectory as last year. The health department does offer free flu shots.

The flu is expected to peak in January or February of 2019.

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